Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tech Industry Job Skills

On Wednesday, December 14, 2011, roughly seventy-five technology advocates gathered at the Left Field Meeting Space in Pittsburgh, PA to discuss the question: Should Web Designers Know Code? Five panelists assembled by Refresh Pittsburgh sat at the front of the room to lead the discussion. The panelists included professional web designers and developers working around the city at various companies including American Eagle Outfitters and Smith Brothers Agency.

The exchange started off with the understanding that businesses are rapidly changing and employees need to learn more skills to keep pace. They agreed that the job titles "web designer" and "web developer" no longer refer to separate skill sets. An audience poll revealed that most people both design and code. So what tech skills are necessary these days to work in web design and development? The answer seems to be a mastery of any programming language or piece of software you can think of: Java, Python, HTML, HTML5, Photoshop, and on and on...

But where do you go to learn these skills? Technical schools such as the Pittsburgh Technical Institute, where one of the panelists (Joshua Sager) is an instructor, can offer promising programs. Some of his current students told me at the event that he encouraged them to attend the discussion. Many panelists also encouraged audience members to "teach yourself" and "follow the right people on Twitter" to stay on top of trends. One interesting suggestion was to "press Ctrl+U" while using the Mozilla Firefox web browser and a window will pop up showing you how the website you are visiting was coded.

Since the future is being developed online and my coding skills are nonexistent, I have started to look into online tools to learn programming languages. Two promising online tools I have found are Codecademy and Khan Academy (videos under "Computer Science"). Both websites provide fun and interactive tutorials to learn fundamental coding skills. They are also both absolutely free.

What if you don't have professional design or coding skills and still want to work in the technology sector? Use social media to create. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, etc. provide platforms for you to design and develop your own ideas. Your smartphone allows you to take pictures, make videos, and express yourself instantly to the world. Have something you want to sell? Amazon, eBay, and Etsy provide online storefronts with tons of potential customers browsing their websites daily. If you want to work for a technology company, put your resume on LinkedIn and talk to your connections about open positions in sales and marketing. Ask them for feedback on how to tailor your application and prepare for the interview. No doubt the world is changing, but we can change with it.

Let's get to work.

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